I grew up in church, but looking back now, it was a long time before I had Biblical reasons for my beliefs. I mean, I knew what I believed, but I didn’t know where it was in the Bible or how to explain it to someone else if I ever needed to.
Fast forward to now and I’m down in South Florida, helping to plant a new church and have built some pretty strong convictions on what the Word says. Not to say I know it all because I definitely learn new things every day, but at least I’m at the point where I know why I believe everything I believe.
Recently though, I’ve gotten into several conversations with people who said things like:
- I’m a Christian but the Bible is more a guideline than actually true.
- As long as you believe in Jesus, nothing else matters.
- I go to church sometimes, and I’m Catholic so it’s basically the same as what you believe.
- I’m a Christian but I don’t think other religions are necessarily going to Hell.
- I don’t believe Hell exists, but I believe in Jesus though.
And I realize, the more I talk to people who self-identify as Christian, the more I notice many are like I used to be, with fuzzy convictions on exactly what the Bible says, and less correlation to what they actually do.
This is important because if we don’t care enough to build convictions on what we believe, how can we expect non-Christians to be inspired enough to follow?
We can’t and they won’t. That’s the problem. It’s why more and more young people are leaving the church and fewer Americans consider themselves religious.
One of my favorite quotes is from DC Talk: “The greatest single cause of atheism today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, and walk out and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
I used to fit this quote to a T until someone took the time to sit down and help me build my convictions on the Word.
So to pass on the favor, here are 4 Biblical convictions that every Christian should have or needs to start building and living out ASAP.
1. The Bible is the absolute truth
This is the conviction that everything else hinges on.
In John 17:17, Jesus says, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” And so in a world full of alternative facts and different versions of the truth, we have to understand that the Savior we say we follow as Christians has already defined it for us.
The assertion that the Bible is the truth is often followed by one of two statements: “Man wrote the Bible,” or, “the Bible was written 2,000 years ago so it doesn’t apply.” Which is fine; I used to say both of those too.
But now when someone says either of them to me, I show them two scriptures.
- 2 Peter 1:20-21
Above all you must understand that no prophecy of scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
People love to say that man wrote the Bible. But if man wrote the Bible, it would be grounded in the human will. Meaning it would sound just like a prosperity gospel sermon, telling us that our blessing is right around the corner, follow our hearts, that all we have to do is speak abundance over our lives and that God exists to please us instead of the other way around.
That’s what the Bible would say if man wrote it. But the Bible doesn’t say that. At all.
It says that our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), to deny ourselves daily and not do what we feel (Luke 14:25-33), that you can’t separate love and obedience when it comes to God and that the only reason we exist is to both love AND obey Him (John 14:15, Mark 12:30).
No one who actually reads the Bible would ever say that a man – or woman – would write such a thing, knowing they were going to be held accountable and their eternity depended on them following it.
- Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
The Bible judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart, which is why even though it was written over 2,000 years ago, it still applies today. Because in 2,000 years, the human heart hasn’t changed.
We still lust. We still hate. We still put things before God. We still live in all kinds of sin. And while it may look different than it did when the Bible was written – you couldn’t scroll down Instagram and catch yourself lusting back in Bible times – the sins of the heart are still the same, making the Bible still applicable. So while we say many people have good hearts, how they respond to scripture shows the truth.
This is especially important when we consider what Jesus says in John 12:48-49:
There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words. The very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken.
The Word is what will judge us on the last day. Not our feelings, traditions, or what our pastor told us, but the actual Word of God. This is why the “do not judge,” in Matthew 7:1 doesn’t apply here.
This article is not to judge anyone by my personal standard. Because I’m no one and my standard means nothing.
This is to help us confront what’s happening around us with the standard of absolute truth that God has already set in the Bible.
When we show scriptures to someone who self-identifies as a Christian, we’re not judging them. We’re showing them the standard that will judge them to help them measure their life against it so they can love God more completely.
2. Refusing to discuss differences with an open mind is sin
So often “doctrine” is treated as a four-letter word. Most commonly I hear, “Well as long as we all believe in Jesus that’s the only thing that matters.”
Which the Bible never says. It actually says, “Watch your life AND doctrine closely because IF you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:16 – emphasis mine).
Another one of my favorites is John 4:23-24. In talking to the Samaritan woman, who also mentions differences in cultures and beliefs, Jesus said:
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is Spirit, and his worshippers MUST worship in Spirit and in truth. (emphasis mine)
The fact that He says, “true worshippers” here and not just “worshippers” means there’s a difference. And if we want to be true worshippers – which of course we do – we need to worship in the Spirit and in truth – which we already established is the Bible.
Two reasons people avoid talking about doctrine are:
- No one wants to admit that they might be wrong, or that there even is a wrong,
- They haven’t studied the Bible enough to show anyone who believes differently why they believe the way they do.
Too often, people do what people do without knowing why they’re doing it. But God says to “be prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have” and that “opponents must be gently instructed.” (1 Peter 3:15, 2 Timothy 2:22-26). Learning the Bible well enough to develop Biblical convictions on what we believe isn’t an option, it’s a requirement.
The solution to this one is simple. We need to be like the Bereans and build our convictions on the Word instead of what others say by eagerly examining the scriptures daily (Acts 17:10-12). I know the Bible can be hard to understand sometimes but God promises that when we seek with all our heart, we will find! (Jeremiah 29:13)
Jesus also commands us to ”make every effort to be completely unified in thought, belief and action.” (Ephesians 4:3-6). If He commands unity, that means there is something to be unified on and as Christians, we need to make every effort to find it. Instead of relying on our traditions and what we’ve been taught, we need to rely on the Word of God and have open-minded discussions with each other instead. (Matthew 15:1-9)
One of the most clever lies of Satan is that our spiritual beliefs are meant to be an individual conviction or a personal journey. But this wasn’t meant to be done alone and as Christians, we’re not only supposed to correct each other but “see to it that no one falls short.” (Hebrews 12:14-15, Galatians 6:1)
Bottom line is, our heart should be to please God more than it is to be right, no matter what. Yes, that means building strong convictions on the Word and then being willing to have respectful, humble and uncomfortable conversations sometimes. But that’s what making every effort is. And if we’re unwilling to discuss differences with well-meaning people, we’re being disobedient.
And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
3. Changing God into someone we like is idolatry.
God and I disagree, often.
I’d love to believe that everyone but murders, child molesters and racists goes to Heaven. Every single nice person I’ve ever met with a “good heart” is going to Heaven… yep, that sounds about right, if I was running the show.
But Jesus didn’t say that. He said, “No one comes to the Father except through me,” and, “whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (John 14:6, Luke 14:27)
That means that if Jesus is not their Lord, He will not be their Savior and Heaven is not an option for them.
Do I like it? Not at all. There are a lot of people I love very much who do not follow Jesus as the Lord of their life. I hate that the Bible says unless they do, they’re not going to Heaven.
I also love the phrase, “Love is love.” It sounds great and if I had my choice, it’d be completely true! But the Bible never says that. It actually says, “God is love,” and then proceeds to give us example after example of what that looks like. We can’t define something that the Creator of the Universe already defined.
That’s pride – God I know better than you – and idolatry – God my definition belongs above yours. And God opposes the proud, not saves them. (Proverbs 3:34).
Then there’s the whole, “no sex before marriage,” and no marrying people who aren’t disciples thing. (Galatians 5:19, 2 Corinthians 6:14) I don’t know about you but I would definitely rip that one out of the Bible if I could. That’s not how I’d write it at all.
But you know what? I didn’t create the world and neither did you, so we don’t get to make the rules. We either follow Jesus or we don’t. He’s either Lord of all or Lord of nothing. Turning Him into someone we like and agree with just because who He really is makes us uncomfortable is sin.
God is very clear about how He feels when we water down His ways and pretend we’re following Him. He tells us in Revelation 3:16 that he will “spit us out of his mouth,” and in Matthew 7: 21-23 that He’ll send us away because He never knew us.
We can’t separate God from religion. We can only separate true religion from false religion. And true religion follows who God really is instead of who we want Him to be.
4. Discipleship is a requirement.
What’s a Christian? This was the biggest definition I had to change once I studied the Bible for myself.
And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
This passage tells us that a disciple of Jesus and a Christian are the same things. In fact, the word Christian is only in the Bible three times, but the word disciple is in the Bible over 270 times. Jesus himself never used the word, “Christian.” It was a nickname that people outside the church gave the disciples to make fun of them years after Jesus went back to Heaven.
So if a Christian and a disciple are the same things, we need to look at what the Bible says about being a disciple to help us learn how to be a Christian.
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Jesus is talking to people who already believe in Him and telling them that if they want to be disciples, they have to hold to His teachings. This scripture is huge because it tells us that knowing the truth and being set free come after our obedience. Not after belief.
But what about those who just believe?
James 2:19. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder.
What’s the difference between a demon and a disciple? It’s not belief because demons believe in Jesus too. They believe more than we do because they’ve actually seen him! The difference is that a disciple – or a true Christian – holds to Jesus’ teachings.
Initially, this was a shock to me because I’d been in church my whole life and been told believing was enough. No one had ever told me I needed to live like a disciple, or what a disciple was, or how to become one.
So once I learned that, I needed to know what else the Bible said about being a disciple. Two scriptures were key:
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
Jesus says we “MUST deny ourselves” and mainstream Christianity says, “believe.”
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
The parallel scripture to this one in Matthew 10:37 actually helps us understand it. Here Jesus is saying that if we don’t love Him more than everyone else – including the closest people to us and even our own lives – then we CANNOT be a disciple (or a Christian).
Which may sound a little extreme. But would you marry someone if they only promised to love you with 80% of their heart, or be faithful 80% of the time? I know I wouldn’t and you probably wouldn’t either. So why would we expect God – the Creator of the World – to accept less than 100% if we wouldn’t?
The cool thing is that God doesn’t expect perfection just like we would never go into a marriage expecting never to argue or hurt each other’s feelings. That’s just not realistic. God knows we’re going to mess up. But he does expect our whole heart though. Commitment, not perfection.
Yes, there are parts of the Bible that just tell us to “believe” but we can’t take those parts on their own without considering the rest of scriptures that require discipleship. We have to understand them in a way that allows all other parts of the Bible to be true as well. Otherwise, it’s contradicting itself.
Bottom line is, if we believe in Jesus, we need to believe Him when He uses words like, “cannot,” “must,” “if,” and “no one.”
God wants our whole entire heart and for that reason, we can’t set the bar at belief when Jesus set it at discipleship.
And we have to really make sure we’re teaching this because the Bible says, “a different Gospel is no Gospel at all.” (Galatians 1:6-10). If you leave out the “obedience required” part of the Gospel, it’s not the Gospel.
Also, don’t take my word on this stuff! I encourage you to go back and read all of these scriptures I mentioned in context to make sure they mean what I say they mean. Seek with your whole heart (Jeremiah 29:13) and find out what pleases the Lord (Ephesians 5:8-10).
Love you in Christ!